Will shared his unease. He had been four years on the Wall. The first time he had been sent beyond, all the old stories had come rushing back, and his bowels had turned to water. He had laughed about it afterward. He was a veteran of a hundred rangings by now, and the endless dark wilderness that the southron called the haunted forest had no more terrors for him.

What do the two bolded passages mean? Bowels should contain food, why it would turn to water? About ' a veteran of a hundred ranging', I consider it as 'a veteran of a hundred skills'. Ranging=skills. Is that right?

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    What do you think they mean? – Mitch Jul 22 '16 at 13:06
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    "Veteran of a hundred rangings" -> he is probably a Ranger, so it appears to mean 100 missions on the wall over those 4 years. When your "bowels turn to water", it means that your bowels don't do their work of extracting the water from the food, thus resulting in diarrhea. It is often due to extreme stress. – MorganFR Jul 22 '16 at 13:26
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    @MorganFR The only hole I'd pick in that is that the passage talks about being 'on the wall' and then being 'sent beyond', so my take would be that 'rangings' are expeditions 'ranging beyond the wall'. – Spagirl Jul 22 '16 at 13:39
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    While it can be understood form context, 'ranging' isn't generally a noun (speaking only from British English), it is the sort of construction and word play that one gets quite a lot in Fantasy novels, especially those with a lot of 'world building'. It's intended to give the language some roots, or 'local colour' arising from in the world described. IMO, obviously – Spagirl Jul 22 '16 at 13:43
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    Hello Arctic, why do you think your question received two downvotes and one close-vote? As @Mitch commented, you need to show us what you understand (preferably using dictionary definitions) and tell us what you don't understand. That's the way you should ask a question here. – user140086 Jul 22 '16 at 14:09

This is an old trope meaning to be seized with fear. The earliest that the Ngram viewer finds is from the periodical Punch from 1843. The phrasing's use is more directly illustrated in Rudyard Kiplings's story "Gemini" from Indian Tales (1890):

Then a new fear came upon me and my bowels turned to water

Consider a terror so great that the person so afflicted feels that he will lose control of the workings of his intestines.

To range can mean to wander extensively, so a ranging is the action of such travel, here apparently through a haunted forest.

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    'old trope'? Intestinal problems yes, but 'turning to water' is more extreme than I've ever heard before. But if Kipling used it, then I guess it's established. – Mitch Jul 22 '16 at 14:03
  • @Mitch The earliest I can find it 1843. It's not Beowulf, but it's older than I am, so I count that as old. – deadrat Jul 22 '16 at 15:21
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    Great. Another driveby downvoter. Is the answer wrong? incomplete? infelicitous? Readers are left wondering by this discourtesy. – deadrat Jul 22 '16 at 16:29
  • (Not my downvote.) The help center discourages answers to questions which should be closed. This question, which is out of scope (interpretation request and lacking results of research), might attract downvotes on answers. – MetaEd Jul 22 '16 at 20:36
  • @MετάEd Of course, and if you (or anyone else) had downvoted the answer and given that reason, I would have had neither a problem nor reason to comment. No one would have been led to wonder if the answer was factually incorrect. In fact, such a comment would have served one of this site's purposes, namely to inform the the questioner of his intellectual and ethical failings. As it is, no one really knows (although your conjecture is is a reasonable one), which is why driveby downvoters are a curse upon this site. – deadrat Jul 22 '16 at 23:26

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